Betty Sanders stood among a pile of clothes, a spread of shoes and various household items as she laughed about the unseasonably warm fall day. “It’s a blessing,” she said. “I was praying that we’d have nice weather.”
Along the tables beside her are ten years’ worth of old belongings, ranging from summer dresses to stuffed animals, from winter coats to purses, and even drapes. Sanders explained that she doesn’t want to give these things away to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, where she’s convinced they’d sit unused on shelves. Instead, she wants to make these items reusable in the community where she grew up.
So she signed up to be one of 12 vendors at Minneapolis’ newest flea market: the Northside Treasures Bazaar. The market, hosted by the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition on Sept. 26, is the third Minneapolis flea market to be held in 60 years, and comes after the city lifted a longstanding ban on the attractions two years ago.
The bazaar was held during Open Streets at Lowry and Penn Avenues in north Minneapolis, and was the first of two flea markets the West Broadway Coalition plans to hold this year as a pilot program. If financially feasible, officials said they hope the market becomes a regular fixture in the neighborhood.
“We have a lot of empty lots in north Minneapolis and I think an activity like this is always going to be a good thing,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Blong Yang.
Yang moved into north Minneapolis’ fifth ward over a decade ago, and has served as the area’s representative on council for the last year and a half. He said adding a flea market to the neighborhood would help spur economic activity, but also give people there a greater sense of community by establishing local tradition. “They’re going to feel like they’re part of something that’s bigger than them,” said Yang.
West Broadway Farmers Market project manager DeVon Nolen runs the new flea market and said she’d like to see the event become an annual thing. More than 100 customers showed up for the first flea market, she said, and although most vendors made only a small profit, they were appreciative for the opportunity and know there’s plenty of room for growth.
Nolen also runs north Minneapolis’ farmers market, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year and has already outgrown its space, she said. The farmers market served around 10,000 people last year, she said, and she expects that number to be even higher this year.
Marketplaces like the farmers market and the flea market also help with social cohesion in the neighborhood, Nolen said, by acknowledging the diversity of the community but providing a safe space to find commonalities. “It creates the environment that says, ‘We value you for you,’” she said.
Longtime resident Jeraine Cuff was also optimistic. Cuff’s family has a long history with the neighborhood, she said, and she remembers when the riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. resulted in several stores on Plymouth Avenue being burned down. The neighborhood never rebuilt itself after that, Cuff said, but she sees the flea market as an opportunity to keep heading in the right direction. “The flea market, they need to keep it going,” Cuff said. “If they keep this going the housing is going to get better, the business market is going to flourish, everything is going to work better.”
Yang said events like the local markets also help to change misperceptions of north Minneapolis, showing that it’s “a real place with real people, beautiful homes and beautiful storefronts.”
So far, the city isn’t sure yet whether the Northside Treasures Bazaar will find a permanent home there, Yang said, and it depends on how well the pilots go. Most likely, he said, it’ll take some creativity and entrepreneurialism to get the flea market running strong, but he hopes to see the community rise to the challenge. “I’d love to see it,” he said. “But it’s going to take some work.”